Together with our colleagues at USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service, USDA’s Partnership Center has been working closely with pastors in Miami, Fla. to expand opportunities to provide food to those in need. On March 24, one of our partners, the Family and Children Faith Coalition in South Florida, is hosting a training session on the Summer Food Service Program to provide free meals for congregations that host summer feeding sites.
Last week, more than 200 pastors of the Greater Miami Hispanic Ministers Association learned about USDA’s nutrition assistance programs from Southeast Regional Administrator Don Arnette. These programs can help put food on peoples’ tables, especially our Summer Food Service Program and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps). Partners from the State of Florida and Miami-Dade County were on hand to brief the pastors on how best they could assist their congregations in providing food.
In February, Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services Kevin Concannon and Deputy Administrator for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Lisa Pino, unveiled the Spanish-language SNAP Retailer Locator at Sedano's Supermarket in Miami. Both Concannon and Pino spoke to an audience of retailers, faith-based leaders, and community members about the importance of SNAP and how the new Retailer Locator can help feed local residents. "The new tool will make it easier for SNAP participants to gain access to food, and it is another critical step in providing participants with information to make more informed shopping choices," stated Concannon. This new online consumer tool helps Spanish-speaking SNAP participants find authorized stores nearby.
Without a doubt, SNAP is the first line of defense against hunger. It is the largest of our nutrition programs at USDA and helps more than 44 million people (1 in 7 Americans) each month—half of them women and children—put healthy food on their tables at home. Unfortunately, SNAP’s participation rate is not as high as it could be, especially among Latinos (who participate at a rate of 56 percent compared to the national average of 67 percent). Research shows that every $5 in new SNAP benefits generates as much as $9 in local economic activity. Under Secretary Concannon emphasized how SNAP participation helps the local economy:
"The President made a commitment to reviving the economy and investing in America and its people. Our efforts to get more eligible people to participate in SNAP are a part of meeting that commitment. Every time a family uses SNAP benefits to put healthy food on the table, it benefits the store and the employees where the purchase was made; the truck driver who delivered the food; the warehouses that stored it; the plant that processed it; and the farmer who originally produced the food."
The event garnered media attention from national, regional, and local news channels and radio, including a piece on Univision’s morning show Despierta America, CNN en Español, and Radio Caracol. Thanks to Roland Gonzalez of Victory 4 Youth for his leadership within the faith-based community, the event’s success was amplified across congregations in Miami. With the help of clergy and the religious media, the Miami events were a success from which we expect much fruit (and other healthy foods).
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Roxana Barillas serves as the Deputy Director for the USDA Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships